“The American founders took [the view that] government was not the center of society, and politics was not the most important thing. Government was a necessary evil that had to be kept to the margins of society. The center of things was civil society, which, for the founders, included businesses, churches, fantasy football leagues and all the rest that made up the texture of everyday life. Today, the concept has degenerated to small political groups on the fringes of society.
“The founders did not trust politicians. They also did not trust the people. They understood that the public could be as venal, ignorant and corrupt as politicians. They also understood that the public could experience as much fractiousness and mutual hatred as politicians. There was nothing magical in the people, save that the people were to form a more perfect union. And that union had certain characteristics. First, it limited the power of the state over society. Second, it structured the state so that it could accomplish little. The founders’ goal was political paralysis to protect society, and they most surely would not regard copious legislation as a good sign.
“They also created a republican, not a democratic form of government. The people could vote, but only for people to represent them. Even the president is not elected directly, but rather through an electoral college. They wanted to keep the people, or any one faction of them, from directly controlling the government. Their view of the people was that they ought to be busy with their private lives, and if politicized, were likely to wreak havoc. But they gave the people the power to select their representatives in various configurations. Those representatives would participate in a government paralyzed by two legislatures with different rules, a supreme court and a president, none under the slightest obligation to be reasonable.
“For all this to work, the representatives had to be people who did not crave power, or else the barriers could be broken. The founders wanted representatives who had private interests and saw politics as a duty rather than a career. They sought some way to force the indifferent public to select their intellectual and moral superiors. And that is the weakness of the American system. People rarely recognize superiors and when they do, they don’t like them. They want to elect people like themselves. And they do.”
— George Friedman